I’m delighted to welcome to my blog today textile artist Elisabeth Rutt. Elisabeth’s piece entitled ‘I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the fields is mine: Psalm 50:11’ was one of the winners of the Bezalel Award, sponsored by the Bible Society as part of the Chaiya Art Awards 2018.
After attending the Chaiya Art Exhibition at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank, London in March this year, and buying the beautiful accompanying book ‘Where is God in the 21st-Century World’, I was delighted to catch up with Elisabeth to find out more about her life and work.
I understand you have a background in fine art. How did you get into textiles?
My father was a professional artist and illustrator, so I grew up surrounded by art activity and materials. I was painting alongside him in his studio before I was of school age and was convinced, that like him, I would be an artist!
At school I took every creative opportunity and exam that the curriculum would allow and went on to complete my Honours degree in fine art and dance at Goldsmiths College. Since University I have worked in Commercial retail management, as an interior designer, and managed an Arts Council funded gallery.
I have always stitched. During the years at home with my young sons I completed my City & Guilds Embroidery with distinction, and have become increasingly immersed in the fascinating world of textiles and embroidery.
My sons are now men and I work from my home studio in Suffolk. I make work for exhibitions and to commission, and alongside my own artistic practice I am a tutor and mentor to design and textile students. Work now falls somewhere between fine art and craft as I combine techniques and materials.
What inspires you?
I live in rural Suffolk and walk often across fields, through woods and alongside coast and estuary with my family. In my recent work I have tried to bring together patterns remembered as I have walked, particularly through chalk landscapes. I grew up in Kent, moved to Hertfordshire as an adult and now live in Suffolk, and so have been surrounded by chalk most of my life. I have many memories of walking the South Downs and the Seven Sisters cliffs that are scoured by footpaths: some signposted and others the desire lines of explorations taken away from the mapped route.
My walks through landscape bring to mind a recurrent analogy of thread and sewing as a process of making marks and patterns upon cloth. Wherever I look in the countryside I see ridges and furrows – ploughed fields, rock strata, paths, tree bark, tractor tracks – and this has led me to identify, record and explore through stitching the patterns that I found within my experience of landscape.
Tell me a little about your winning exhibit.
The ‘land’ for my stitching is a ground fabric of my handmade dry felt and screen printed fabric. My stitches move through my fictional landscape making motifs of hidden geology, ancient people and buildings, agriculture and paths, as if seen via aerial photography. It’s also a ‘God’s-eye’ view, which is why I entitled the piece ‘I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the fields is mine: Psalm 50:11’
Our world and landscape speak strongly to me of God and His creation. We have a real responsibility to respect and look after it as we live within it. This piece is about the experience of our landscape and my love of it. We must live within the natural geology with care and so this piece integrates signs of our buildings and agriculture while birds soar free in silhouette over fields, buildings, river, pebbles and open country.
I found Elisabeth’s creative process particularly fascinating, as I too gain great inspiration from walking in the countryside. She uses her stitching as I use my words, shining a new light on our world so that we see it with different eyes. Her artwork takes the chaos of our environment and our lives and invests them with a shape – a sense of order and meaning – that can be shared with others, making the invisible brilliantly, beautifully visible. Perhaps its not a surprise that there are similarities in the way we work. We are, after all, sisters!
Elisabeth Rutt is a freelance textile artist and tutor. She graduated from the University of London, Goldsmiths College, with a BHum, Fine Art and Dance in 1982. She has worked in interior design and been both Artist in Residence and Associate Artist for Dance East. She was Gallery Manager for Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery from 2006 to 2012. Elisabeth now divides her time between making work for exhibition or commission, as tutor/mentor for a textile masterclass in Hertfordshire and other teaching by invitation, particularly enjoying artist in residence opportunities in Suffolk schools. She is a member of the Suffolk Craft society with whom she exhibits twice annually.